ABA Therapist: Salary and Career Facts

Applied behavior analysis (ABA) therapists use their knowledge of how environmental factors impact behavior to help patients overcome behavioral issues. Find out the education requirements, job duties and earnings potential for ABA therapists. Schools offering Applied Behavioral Science degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Are the Job Responsibilities of an ABA Therapist?

As an ABA therapist, you'll provide behavior support to improve the lives of individuals living with intellectual or developmental disabilities, such as Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). Your daily responsibilities may include writing behavior support plans, collecting data and conducting functional assessments. You can work with patients one-on-one and in groups, providing instruction and conducting discrete trials. Documenting and reviewing progress through charting and staff communication are an important part of an ABA therapist's work.

You look for ways to incorporate behavior treatment into every aspect of the client's life. Communicating with teachers, parents, family members and caregivers is part of your responsibility, because getting their observations on the effectiveness of behavior treatment can help you figure out which approaches work best. Many ABA therapists train other staff members and caregivers to implement behavioral programs in the classroom and at home.

Where Could I Work?

Educational foundations, school systems and other programs serving patients with behavioral training and conditioning needs may employ ABA therapists. Individual families may also contract with an ABA therapist to work with their child or other family member at home.

What Education and Training Will I Need?

Entry-level positions as an ABA therapist can be obtained with an associate's degree in a field like psychology or special education. In order to advance or to become a supervisory therapist, you generally need a bachelor's degree or a master's degree. Master's degree programs specifically in ABA are available at some schools.

The Behavior Analyst Certification Board (BACB) offers national certification for ABA therapists. Certification is available at different levels for therapists with bachelor's, master's and doctoral degrees. You need to have completed your education at an approved school and have taken coursework specific to ABA. You also need some field experience for each level of certification.

How Much Could I Earn?

As of March 2012, Payscale.com reported that the majority of ABA therapists earned an hourly pay rate of $10.26-$23.37 and overtime hourly rates of $14.62-$31.79. Their annual total pay was between $21,741 and $50,894. May 2010 figures from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics showed a mean annual wage of $40,810 for the broader category of substance abuse and behavioral disorder counselors.

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